Bye Bye, July

2 Aug

Slightly later than planned, for no other reason than laziness, here is what I have been up to in July:

I completed the first round of my online reading challenge that I take part on a regular basis. I managed to read 11 books in July, mainly because TV has been so shockingly awful. I’m now only one book away from reaching the target I set for myself in 2020 which was 75. I have a feeling I might surpass my total from 2019 but I’m going to challenge myself to read some longer books I have been putting off for a while.

The ‘offline’ books I read in July

I’m now 100% in on the weightlifting/gym routine and I am enjoying it. Four session a week plus running and tennis lessons has been gruling but I am getting used to it and managing to stick with it. The added benefit it that I actually sleep. I’ve been a notoriously bad sleeper, espeically over the past few years but now (as a result of the training and the early mornings) I drag myself to bed before 10 almost falling asleep before my head hits the pillow.

The package of tennis lessons I paid for it almost at an end and, considering I had never really played before, I’m very happy with the progress and I might keep playing on in the winter.

I took part in my first ever improv show. I still can’t make up my mind if I liked it or not. The audience seemed to be entertained which is the main thing. More classes will start in the new year and I’m tempted to carry on with it.

I’ve also had online script writing lesson which have been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot. It’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of whether I want to focus more on script writing or novels/short stories. I guess I can always do both!

I’m not sure what August will bring but there is another drama performance in the pipeline and more reading of course. Perhaps later in the year there will be a holiday or a chance to go home to see family and friends. Fingers crossed!

Gardening Success

20 Jul

I’m not the world’s best gardener but I have been trying to spend more time in the garden, especially as the chances of a two-week holiday this summer seemed unlikely. I took it as the perfect opportunity to invest time and energy into the garden while I’m here to enjoy it.

I’ve been surprised by my successes so far. The cherry tomatoes are coming along (a few even look like they are turning red); the snack peppers have already been ‘harvested’ once; my sweet peas are growing like the clappers, but alas! no sign of any flowers yet; and a moldy tomato I decided to plant to “see if it would grow or not” seems to grow an inch every time I look at it.

I need to replant the ‘moldy tomato plant’ because it needs more space to grow into at the rate its growing. I’ve been meaning to do that for the past five days now but I will do it tomorrow.

Here are some photos:

Lots of cherry tomatoes and the first ones turning red!
This is what happens when you plant a moldy tomato…
First ‘harvest’ of snack peppers

I would like to grow other vegetables and plant but at the moment I don’t have deep enough soil. I’m already thinking about investing in some more permanent (and deeper) plots of soil for next year!

Back to Drama

13 Jul

During the Lockdown, I busied myself with online drama course offered by an English-speaking theatre group based in Zurich. It was so much fun. I didn’t do much acting and drama when I was at school (long story that I’ll save for another time) so I’m making up for lost time and trying to learn as much about drama and the theatre as I can. I like having a hobby that is completely different to my day job but also compliments my ambitions of being a full-time writer.

Now people can meet in person again, drama classes are back and in person (while observing the 2m distancing rule as much as possible). So I signed up for an Improvisation class. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares to most people, being without a script and taking suggestion from the audience to be used in the scene, but I’d much prefer to do that than learn lines and lines from a script that I’m bound to forget anyway.

With any luck what we learn in the class will be showcased in a performance near the end of the month. The luck part is hoping that a second wave hasn’t hit and it’s still possible to perform live.

Then later in August the theatre company is hoping to bring some of the pieces that we studied and created in lockdown to the real stage, which is such a great idea. I’ve put myself forward to perform a couple of pieces so I just have to see if they are chosen to be performed on the night.

On top of that I’ve also started an online screen writing course. It’s online because playwright who is workshopping it is based in the UK so for once an online course is happening online for logistical reasons and not because of a global pandemic. I’ve never written anything before for the stage or TV apart from a short play I wrote as part of the online course that ran in April. It’s very fun to learn something new and I’m hoping it will also help me develop interesting characters to use in a future book or short story.

I am grateful, in a weird way, for the pandemic because I wouldn’t have been able to take these classes and find something I have a passion for. Obviously I hope life will return to normal as soon as possible but I would like to stick to the acting and theatre now I’ve found it.

Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Bye June!

30 Jun

Another month has come and gone and we are half way through 2020. It’s strange to think we have spent about half of this year in lockdown and I am still working from home at least for another month. What a crazy year.

June itself has been pretty uneventful. Things have been slowly opening up in Switzerland but I’m more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home for the time being and spend time doing (socially distant) sports.

I have started going back to the gym in the mornings. Two weeks before lockdown I signed up for a 12 week fitness plan. I was just getting into it when I had to stop. I’m now in the third week of restarting the programme and I’m starting to feel the benefits already. This means my ambitious running targets have been dropped for the time being but I did get out of bed this morning at 5.30am to go for a 10km run because I realised yesterday that I hadn’t run a 10km in June. I enjoyed it a lot and the sun hadn’t come up. I hate running in heat!

I’ve finished another one of my 40 Before 40 challenges this month as well. I’ve not written about it because I only finished it yesterday but that will be coming soon and I’ve started another challenge from the list – which will take about 6 months to complete.

I’m going strong on my alcohol-free year. It’s something like 130 days now and I’m finding it ok. I think it’s definitely having a positive effect on my wasitline as well as my pocket.

I took part in an online theatre performance. A playwright had written a series of Zoom calls for us to perform all based on Lockdown life and the performance was recorded. I was so nervous about it but I enjoyed it and I hope the audience did too!

My writing progress has slowed down a bit. You might remember I finished the first draft of a novel in May and my plan is to get busy on some other writing before coming back to it later in the year to start the first of many rounds of edits. The hope that I would be able to use my ‘high’ of finishing the book would end up with me being more productive on other writing projects wasn’t been realised. But I have two submissions for competitions in early July to make so I need to get cracking on those or I’ll miss the deadlines.

In July I will be taking part in my online reading challenge again, aiming to read 10 books which fit 10 different categories. I’m happy this challenge means I will be able to get some more room on my reading shelves.

I am also aiming to post every Monday in July on this blog because I realise I haven’t been so good with updating this recently. This is partly because I’ve not done anything that deviated especially from my lockdown routine so it didn’t seem like there was that much to say.

Life after Lockdown

18 Jun

With restrictions slowly lifting, I was thinking about what life would be like when things return back to normal after Lockdown, or at least as normal as they can be after a global pandemic.

I know some people have struggled with the restrictions and have found life difficult but I’ve try to embrace Lockdown life and make the most of it. If you know me, you’ll know that I love travelling but not being able to has given me time to think about what else I like doing and what projects I could do safely from home that have been on my to-do list for a long time.

I am hoping that working from home will continue long into the future (at the moment we have been told to work from home until the end of July and then spilt working will come into effect all being well) because I feel a lot more relaxed working in my little office space at home and I can do everything as well as I can if I was sitting in an office in Zurich.

I have been thinking about what things that I started during Lockdown I want to keep doing. Here’s a little list:

  1. I am pretty bad at keeping in contact with people. I blame social media for a portion of this. When I can see what people have posted from day to day, I feel like I have been in contact with them but seeing where someone went for dinner or which airport they are flying from on their latest holiday is not the same as picking up the phone or sending someone a personal message to see how they are. I’ve made an effort to speak to family and friends, and reconnected with others, during Lockdown and it feels good to hear back from people or to spend 15 minutes on a video call catching up. I will endeavour to carry this on.
  2. We’ve been having a weekly family quiz. I’ve lost count of how many weeks this has been but I’ve really enjoyed hunting down questions when it was my turn to write them or scratching my head at questions when I wasn’t quiz master. I’m not saying that I want to commit to a weekly quiz in the future but I wouldn’t mind doing it once a month or so. I’ve also been doing a monthly quiz for the netball club because we haven’t been able to train which has been fun too. Basically, quizzing is here to stay.
  3. This is a strange one… during the panemdic I ordered monthly contact lenses online. I’d switched to single use lenses more than 10 years ago. Seeing reports of wildlife and nature thriving while people weren’t travelling made me think I should do more for the environment. So I decided using monthly lenses would cut down on my non-recyclable plastic waste and I will save a ton of money too!
  4. I’ve managed to draft a novel in Lockdown and in general I am enjoying my writing and I’ve made some good habits around my writing. I can see it’s improving slowly so I would love for this creativity to carry on, espeically when I come back to editing my novel (which needs a huge amount of work.)
  5. Running has been a regular part of my day over the past three months. It meant getting out of the house and enjoying fresh air. The highlights were my early morning runs. I’ve forced myself out of bed a handful of times for, what I call, morning miles and every time I was amazed by nature. I managed to see a fox early one morning, another time a red kite swooped down to catch some prey less than 10 meters away from me and I saw two rabbits running away from a fox last week. Incredible stuff which made the long hard slog of a weekend run worth it.
  6. I realised yesterday that I haven’t had to make an excuse to get out of any social activities. I know what you’re thinking – that’s easy because we haven’t been able to socialise! But actually a lot of my hobbies and groups have moved online, like writing group and drama classes. I’ve found it really liberating to not feel that awful sensation of guilt about trying to come up with an excuse about not wanting to do something that I signed up to do when I was feeling in a better mood. I am hoping to have the courage in the future to be more honest and able to only make plans I want to commit to.

Has there been anything about Lockdown that you would like to keep?

Sobering thoughts

11 Jun

100 days ago I started the 7th challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to go alcohol-free for a year.

I had several reasons to add this to my list. The first reason was related to health reasons. I’d happily drink pint after pint without any issue. The problem is not only the affect on your liver and internal organs but also the affect it has on your waistline. Drinks contain more calories than you realise. As I am trying to get fit, it made sense that this had to go.

The second reason was because I realised how many days I have wasted in my life because of alcohol. My hangovers last for about 3 days now depending on how much I’ve had to drink. Weekends have been wasted and plans not followed through because I felt terrible. Avoiding alcohol would mean being more productive, at least in theory.

And, I suppose, the final reason was because I have given up alcohol in the past for about 3 months. I gave up one January because I was running a half marathon in mid-March and managed to smash my PB. I know this wasn’t 100% due to giving up alcohol but it was a postive contribution to it.

So, here I am at just over 100 days into my 365 challenge and, therefore, in unchartered territory. It was always my intention to start the challenge on 1st March 2020. I didn’t realise it would coincide with a global pandemic. I’m not sure if the timing is a blessing or a curse. The temptation of going out to pubs and restaurants has been completely removed but I have a feeling that when the world reopens (whenever that may be) the biggest party known to mankind will happen and I will be sat in the corner nursing a tepid tap-water!

If I’m being brutally honest, I haven’t missed drinking at all. There are so many alcohol-free alternatives on the market these days that I’ve had plenty of options to choose from. Many of them have a similar taste to the *real* stuff so I haven’t been yearning for that unmistakable hit of hops. However, I can’t say I feel super-duper fantastic for my efforts. I’ve not lost any weight and I don’t feel any different to when I started. But I’m happy to blame this on COVID-19.

I have also been surprised at how many of my friends have suggested drinks and brands of non-alocholic drinks to try which has been a big help and a great source of support!

Even though I’m about a third of the way through this challenge, I have a feeling it’s might get tougher as time ticks on. But I’ll let you know my progress along the way.

One of my favourite non-alcoholic beers – so far

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Farewell May

1 Jun

I normally write my monthly round up on the last day of the month but everything is being postponed or cancelled so I decided it wasn’t so bad to post this a day later.

May seems like it has gone on forever. Lockdown has started to ease in Switzerland but we are still being asked to remain cautious and work has said we will be working from home at least until the end of July. I guess a decision will be made once the effect of the easing measures has been assessed as to what the next steps are for returning to work.

I must admit I enjoy working from home far more than I do slepping into the office every day. It’s quiet at home so I can concentrate on my tasks more and, even though there is a lot of flexiblity in my team and job, I’ve found it great to be able to pop out for a run or a walk while I’m waiting for information from another team. You can’t do that when you work in the office!

Despite lockdown I have managed to have an action packed month. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve started tennis lessons. Tennis has to be one of the best sports to be able to maintain social distancing. The last time I picked up a tennis racket was when I was about 14. I’ve only had a few lessons but I’m enjoying it and learning a lot at the same time.
  • This month I ran 115km. My goal was to beat last month’s total which was 91km. So I smashed that. I had hoped to run more than 120km but the last few days I decided to skip running because I was feeling tired. I’m not sure if I will set myself a June running goal because I’m hoping to go back to the gym and carry on with my PT training which will mean I’ll definitely be too tired to run.
  • I’ve been on a few nature walks over the past few weeks. Just wandering round on the local pathways. You can see one of the photos I took below.
  • I’ve had online quizzes with my family and the netball team which have been great fun.
  • I’ve also written my first ever one act play thanks to the drama course I’ve taken during lockdown. I am hoping that the play will one day be performed live. I’m very excited about that!
  • I’m also in the middle of creating a solo performance with the same drama group. We should be ready to perform in (online, of course) next week so I need to get cracking with that rather than just thinking about it.
  • I’ve also finished another one of my challenges. This is a big deal for me and I can’t believe I’ve done it but I have. I will reveal all later this week in a separate post!

So that was May. As I said I’m hoping to get back to PT training in June and get back to some reading which has gone off the boil slightly in May because of the other creative projects I’ve been up to!

I hope you have been productive and well in May as well!

A family of ducks I saw on a nature walk

Challenge #26 – completed!

19 May

Last weekend I finished another one of my challenges. I have now learnt 40 origami designs!

There are so many videos on the internet which so many different and designs and techniques that it has been a great challenge to complete during lockdown. All you need is a stack of paper and internet connection.

Here are the last 15 designs I made to complete the challenge. Some of them were easier than others. I tried to make a balance of easy and difficult ones to make the challenge more interesting.

In case you’re in any doubt they are (top left to bottom right): a tie, tulip, diamond, envelope, box, butterfly, sweet, star, dress, jellyfish (looks to me more like a UFO), heart, sword and 3 dinosaurs recreating Jurassic Park!

I think my favourite one from this batch was the butterfly. I’ve tried to make a couple of butterflies before but never managed it. This was fairly easy to make.

My favourite overall design has to be Pikachu!

I have now officially completed half of my challenges. So I’m about right on target. I’m slightly nervous about my travel challenges… I’ll have to see if I am able to complete them in the time remaining!